It may sound unlikely, but according to Dr Gordon Shepherd, a top neuroscientist at the Yale School of Medicine, quaffing wine is the best workout you can give the old grey matter. But how does drinking wine go hand in hand with lighting up your brain power?
It’s all about the whole process of sniffing, processing, analysing and tasting that goes into serious wine drinking. All of these processes engage more parts of the brain than almost anything else that we do.
Wine tasting engages the brain
Dr Shepherd insists that many people’s favourite hobby of drinking plenty of wine requires perfect control of the brain, tongue and olfactory system. For example, when you take a mouthful and swirl the wine around your mouth, all of the intricately fine muscles in your tongue are activated, along with hundreds and hundreds of taste receptors.
This process uses more of the brain than working out tricky maths or listening to a piece of music, according to his research. He has also found that flavour is rather more subjective than previous studies showed.
Swallowing is key to tasting wine properly
We all process flavour differently, using our very own experiences and frames of reference. All of this has an effect on how we perceive flavour, when compared to other people. So, the flavour of wine is far more about the brain of the person doing the tasting than in the product itself.
To get the full effect, says Dr Shepherd, we should dispense with the traditional spitting wine into a bucket, and allow ourselves to savour swallowing. Taking a small amount into our mouth, swirling around to allow our brain synapses to start firing to make the connections between odour and flavour, followed by swallowing, all combine to influence our idea of the flavour.
Dr Shepherd cautions against taking too much in at once, as when you’re past the first few sips, your system is overloaded and your brain saturated. And of course, if you ignore his advice and drink lots of wine, your brain is likely to be under a whole different kind of strain – with a hangover!
It’s seems the key to combining drinking wine and having a brain workout is take it slow, sip small amounts and give yourself time to savour the flavour. Sounds good to us!